Imagine if the answer to reducing student stress, anxiety and improved attendance was…. a dog?
Just add dog and study? Catholic Ladies’ College has introduced a number of progressive groundbreaking programs involving therapy animals, which as you can imagine, have been welcomed with open arms. And lots of patting and cuddling. The joy most of us feel when we see a cute, friendly, playful dog is almost instant, and it is this positive endorphin releasing affect that therapy animals have on our students.
The programs we have have launched so far include stress relief for our Year 12 students, within our Maths Enhancement Programs, and a new program that a lucky group of Year 7’s are taking part in called, ‘Mindfulness Just Add Dog’. Ann Fahey, CLC’s Learning Support Leader, says the programs have been met with “excitement, joy and awe at learning through their interactions with a friendly dog”. She says the school is using a combination of dogs, rabbits and parrots and has already noticed the positive affects they have had on the students.
Traditionally, practicing mindfulness would include meditation, deep breathing, tai chi, massage, reflexology, journaling, prayer or yoga, but this brings a whole new meaning to downward facing dog.
Dog therapy has successfully been used in the US, in a way to provide comfort and support for students returning to school after dealing with traumatic events. Research has shown therapy dogs can reduce stress and provide a sense of connection in difficult situations.
Schools and Universities are increasingly adopting therapy dog programs, which are having a great impact on student wellbeing and providing social and emotional support.
So what are the benefits of animal therapy with school children, besides the obvious pats and cuddles?
- Increased attendance.
- Gains in confidence.
- Improved motivation to learning.
- Teach empathy and appropriate interpersonal skills.
- Develop social skills and help pick up social cues imperative to human relationships.
- A soothing presence in times of stress or anxiety, resulting in improved learning outcomes.
- Support children with social and emotional learning needs, which in turn can assist in literacy development.
Now we are not opening the CLC Zoo anytime soon, but don’t be alarmed if you happen to see a few cuddly creatures around.